Looking for God in All the Wrong Places

By Jason Jackson

It’s “bottoms up” for believers in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. At least, that’s what Peter Winkle, the former “reverend” and restauranteur, is hoping. He applied for a liquor license on December 11, 2002, planning to mix the Bible and Budweiser into some kind of spiritual concoction for the shy-of-church.

“The focus,” said Winkle, “is on getting the message out….If that message happens to come from inside a bar, so be it” (Rob Kirkbride. “Would-be bar owners plan to pour out the spirit of religion.” The Grand Rapids Press. December 10, 2002).

Winkle considers the “good” that can be done. When patrons belly-up to the bar at Graces, they’ll be served by a clergyman. “There won’t be Bibles on the tables and the clergy won’t be wearing robes or collars, but I do envision loud music and people having fun,” said Renee Visser, a downtown business owner who is working with Winkle.

Presbyterian minister Kenneth Gentry pours out his opinion on the subject in his book God Gave Wine: “We need to change the public perception of Christians being a bunch of killjoys. Evil comes out of the heart of man, not out of a substance” (as quoted by Kirkbride).

Visser concluded, “Some people are bitter about traditional churches…We want to provide a place more comfortable to them.”

Garth Brooks mesmerized fans several years ago by singing, “I’ve got friends in low places….” Was he talking about Christians? This “anything-goes evangelism” is anything but “preaching the gospel” (Mk. 16:15). What value would there be to teaching someone the gospel who won’t remember it in the morning?

This ethical near-sightedness is nothing new. Joseph Fletcher publicized it in America decades ago in his book, Situation Ethics. But the idea is as old as Satan. People are deceived if they think that they can do wrong so that good may result. The end does not justify the means.

The incomprehensible thing is this: these entrepreneurs do not see anything wrong with the consumption of alcohol. It leads one to wonder what influence they were under when they read [if they read], “Wine is a mocker and strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1).
Drunkenness is still condemned in Scripture as “a work of the flesh” (Gal. 5:21). And I have yet to discover the work of the flesh that can be done in moderation.

Since, as Gentry puts it, a substance is not intrinsically evil, one might suggest mixing a little weed with worship. How about casinos for Christ? A game of righteous roulette might reach the 4 million compulsive gamblers whose lives are on a ruinous course.

Is there a ministry yet to be uncovered among users of pornography? Twelve billion dollars bought Americans pornographic materials last year — twice the combined gross revenue of the major television networks CBS, NBC, and ABC. Such “ministers” could employ lust in moderation, transforming it into a love for God, “who made us male and female.”

How many more people could John the Immerser have reached had he sat on a bar stool and preached, “Another round! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

There is no doubt that people need the gospel — everybody needs the gospel. The remedy for the social and personal ills of life is the message of Christ. It is found in the New Testament and lived by faithful Christians who “abstain from every form of evil,” “flee from fornication,” “overcome evil with good,” “abhor what is evil,” and “hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:22; 1 Cor. 6:18; Rom. 12:21; 12:9).

Individuals are attracted to the message, it is true, by our “good works” (Matt. 5:16), and they are encouraged to fill their minds with things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise (Phil 4:8). For which things, we might say, there is no “legal-limit” or “under-aged restrictions” (cf. Gal. 5:23).

J.B. Phillip translates Romans 12:2 like this: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold….” There is no need to brew up a spiritual message that is less-filling and tastes great. The gospel, undistilled, does not make us more comfortable where we are; rather, it leads us to realize the seriousness of sin and the need for a Savior — therein is righteousness and a clear conscience (cf. Rom. 1:16-17; 1 Pet. 3:21).